Anachoret – Syndrom Review

An anachoret—anchorite in English—is someone who has committed to live an ascetic life in solitary confinement in order to devote themselves to prayer.1 In this way, they reflect the notorious stereotype of the solo black metal musician. Anachoret is no exception, being the solo black metal project of the mysterious K.C. This debut LP has apparently been three years in the making, following a demo, two splits, and an EP over a span of ten years. It professes to be a “melancholic and sublime” expression of the artist’s emotions, the culmination of over a decade of experience. It’s the kind of blurb you may have heard dozens of times before, and so one asks oneself upon pressing play: “how will Syndrom stand out?”

Anachoret may brand themselves as “atmospheric black metal”, but in truth they play a second-wave-inspired, hardcore-tinged post-black style. When I say “second-wave-inspired,” I mean that the album is sealed with a murky, treble-heavy production, and that the faster sections are effuse with blastbeats and melodic tremolo. The remainder, making up more than half of the runtime, is slow, swaying, sometimes doomy, with dulcet refrains plucked or electronically harmonized. K.C’s shrieks frequently stray into an agonised bark-like scream, making some lyrics actually audible, and we even get some spoken-word—both in English and in K.C’s native German. All these ingredients could make for an interesting and engaging work of art, a more intelligent communication of feeling than your average atmo-black affair. This is where Anachoret falls down, for while sounding perfectly nice, Syndrom fails to live up to its potential, providing only the most minimal amount of intrigue.

The album feels derivative, both of others, and as it continues, of itself. What struck me most unshakeably is how much like Harakiri for the Sky this sounds. It’s not simply the guitar tone or the mellow, sometimes folky melodies (“Home,” “Das Meer in Deinen Augen,” “Freiheit”). Nor is it only the emotive vocal delivery (“Chasing the Night Sky”) or the swaying rhythms to which the above are delivered. It’s also the songs as wholes, bringing back the intro’s gently plucked tune with these hopeful-sounding refrains (“Das Meer in Deinen Augen,” “Grace of Decay”), following more intense passages of blistering black metal (“Freiheit”). Repeated over and over, this becomes incredibly predictable. Consecutive tracks “Home,” “Das Meer in Deinen Augen,” and “Grace of Decay” all follow the above template in near-identical fashion, while more diverse “Chasing the Night Sky,” “Winter,” and “Freiheit” still don’t pass without a transition from the dark or dissonant to this familiar blithe euphony.

Small glimmers of promise appear when Anachoret experiments. “Chasing the Night Sky” contains a full recitation of Dylan Thomas’ poem “Do Not Go Gentle into That Good Night,” which works exceptionally well over the sad plucking it accompanies. “Freiheit” opens with sinister blackened doom, and a cavernous production that, while coming out of nowhere, sounds impressive and dark. Scattered instances of throaty background clean singing (“Das Meer in Deinen Augen,” “Freiheit”) also inject a bit of scale and pathos. It’s a shame such features are so rare, because each—in their own way—teases an atmosphere that the rest of the material doesn’t possess. Runtimes also tend to weaken the potency, exacerbating feelings of repetition as songs average at least 8 minutes of their formulaic black metal/post-black back and forth.

Syndrom is not bad, in fact, it all sounds pretty good. As the work of a single musician, it’s notable how competent and robust it does feel. The above-indicated elements imply that Anachoret do have the potential to rise if they follow down these less-trodden paths. Anachoret seem like they haven’t quite found their voice, and so borrowed that of others here. I’d like to hear them develop it, but for now, it’s lost in the crowd.

Rating: Disappointing
DR: 9 | Format Reviewed: 319 kbps mp3
Label: Folter Records
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: February 12th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. This is why Happy Metal Guy no longer writes here, despite rumors involving…foul play. – Steel
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